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I got off the bus and walked the short distance to the all familiar house in the corner. To my eyes it already looked cold and unfamiliar, different from the cheery place which was practically my second home these past years. I wouldn’t be coming here after today. This was my very last visit.

I rang the bell with a heavy heart. Her mother nodded on seeing me and pointed to the open door of her room before walking back to the kitchen. The house looked so different today, quite unlike the previous times I had been here. The crates and the packing material  lying around gave it an air of imminent abandonment.

I made my way to her room. It wore a look of utter chaos. There were books everywhere, on the table, crammed on a couple of chairs, and also all over the floor, in disorganized piles. There were other things too strewn all over, her dresses, games, music, painting brushes, color pencils, but books are what I notice, always.

She was on all fours, in the middle of it all, pulling one out from beneath a precariously teetering tower in one corner. When she heard my knock and turned, the tower of books collapsed all around her, some of them bouncing off her back and falling flat, pages open at random, some face up and and others face done with their ribs standing out.

She ran her fingers through her hair in that way of hers I had come to adore, and which made me wish my hair was like hers, unruly and wild. Pushing her displaced glasses higher up her nose, she waved her hand in a semi circle and smiled,

“Take your pick.”

Unlike her, I could not afford books. I knew I should have been ecstatically happy at her generosity. I was too, but the thrill was dimmed by the knowledge that I’d not be seeing her for a long long time, or worse still, may be never. What if she never returned to this country? I’d miss her so much, our heart to heart chats, the way I could unwind at her place, the silly games we played and of course the books I could read, that we enjoyed reading together and talking about.

I looked around to stop thinking about a time without her. Not knowing where to start I decided on taking it clockwise. Carefully I chose a few books as I walked, kept them aside and stood back. 

“That all?” she asked. “Here, take these too.” She picked up some books she had apparently kept to one side just for me. She knew they were those I dipped into more frequently while spending time at her place. Then she pointed to the star set of books on her table and said,

“Those too.”

I looked at her incredulously. Not those, surely? She was giving away her set of Harry Porter books?! I could not believe my ears. I knew they were her favorite, the same as they were mine.

She took a box and quietly started putting them inside one by one. Harry Porter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry Porter and the Chamber of Secrets. I caught hold of her hand then, stopping her, forcing her to look at me. 

“Are you sure?”

“Of course I am” She seemed irritated by my question. “You are my best friend,” she added in a whisper, her voice breaking. I knew she was crying. But then, so was I. 

©Shail Mohan 2015